Early in the Iraqi government’s invasion of Mosul, a decision was made to tell the civilian population not to flee. At the time, this was meant to allow them to target those fleeing as ISIS fighters, and to make up for the lack of preparation to absorb civilians for the long period of time such a fight was going to take.
Iraq is rethinking that decision now, with fighting in densely populated neighborhoods a growing problem, and with some five months of solid fighting creating a growing humanitarian crisis. UN officials are now warning, with some 400,000 trapped in western Mosul, the worst is yet to come.
And that’s saying a lot, since the current worst has soaring civilian casualties, with US airstrikes killing 230 civilians just overnight in a single neighborhood. The situation is already calamitous, and there really is no sign of things getting better any time soon.
Belated attempts to get the populace to flee have faced major obstacles, both in that many neighborhoods are too dangerous to get out of, and in that even those who do manage to get out are finding the refugee camps full up. Those who can are trying to get through Peshmerga checkpoints to flee even further, but for many without the proper paperwork that too is an exercise in futility.